Those Who Came Before Me

Ceramic shards collected from Red Lodge Clay Center’s outdoor shard pile
Produced during an Artist-Invite-Artist Residency in 2022

For over a decade, I have collected shards from the shard piles behind ceramic residency programs and schools. Shard piles, the dumping grounds for failed projects, are common in the outdoor spaces surrounding ceramic communities. In their broken, discarded state, these rejected artworks may last for a millennium. Shards are the archaeological record that remains after a ceramic studio has been deconstructed and demolished. They act as a record of the artists who once inhabited these spaces. Our shards will outlast us.

During a 2022 Artist-Invite-Artist residency at Red Lodge Clay Center, I decided to lean into my impulse to collect shards by formalizing it as research. When grouped together, the shards implicitly act as a portrait of the ceramic community that has formed the legacy of the residency. The shards represent each artists’ standards for failure and their commitment to their craft. The ceramic community is small and interconnected. We learn from each other, and many of us can trace back our ceramic family tree to key ceramic artists from the 20th century. My arrangement of shards is a simple gesture toward representing the importance of legacy, mentorship, and connection in the field of ceramics.